Baked Pasta e Fagioli

 

We depend on filling, frugal dishes for our weeknight meals. It helps if they're also simple to make and delicious! One of our favorite stand-by dishes, and one for which we always have the ingredients on hand, is Pasta e Fagioli. Typically, this soupy pasta dish is made in a skillet, but I've found that most savory foods can benefit from a sprinkling of bread crumbs and cheese and a hiatus in a hot oven. Pasta e Fagioli can be incredibly frugal, making use of bread crumbs made from stale bread, odds and ends of cheese, or even leftover cooked beans and pasta. If you decide to use dried beans in this recipe, use 1 cup, which is roughly equivalent to two 15 1/2 ounce cans of beans. If you have leftover cooked dried beans, use 1 1/2 cups. We used fresh mozzarella for our version of this dish, but I imagine a multitude of other cheeses would be similarly delicious (and similarly inauthentic!). Or you could go a bit more spartan and combine the bread crumbs with grated Parmesan or Romano. In either case, if you have a Parmesan rind knocking around in your refrigerator, this is the time to use it--toss it in with the beans and stock and let it work its magic.

What you will need

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 1/2 cups ditalini or elbow macaroni

2 cloves garlic, minced

Two 15 1/2-ounce cans cannellini, Great Northern, or Navy beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth

1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup minced parsley

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

6 ounces cheese, grated or, if using fresh mozzarella, cut into thin rounds

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